Mike Gillislee Caps Off Florida Gators Career With Magical Season

Okay, so I admit using the word “magical” is a little much, but do you expect any less from me? First of all, it’s 6:00 in the morning as I write this. Second, I have a five-month-old child, which is basically the equivalent of having a drunk person that has lost the ability to speak in your house at all times. And finally, we all really do want to believe it was magical.

Mike Gillislee - Florida Gators

Mike Gillislee set lofty goals for himself entering the 2012 college football season–1,500 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns–and while the Florida Gators’ senior didn’t reach those goals, he did hit a milestone we’re all proud of. Gillislee capped off the regular season with 140 yards on the ground and two touchdowns against the Florida State Seminoles to give him 1,104 yards and 10 TDs on the season. Not only did he become the first true Gators’ running back to break the 1,000-yard mark since Ciatrick Fason did in 2004, but he also became the first to carry the ball 200 times or more and rush for 10 or more touchdowns since Fason. Tim Tebow did both and Trey Burton and Percy Harvin found the end zone 10 or more times, but Gillislee is the first running back to do it since Ron Zook patrolled the Gators’ sidelines. And now is as good a time as any to quickly move on from Zook and forget I even mentioned him.

Back to the wonders of the Gators’ rediscovered running game. Gillislee was a bright spot in a season that was about as odd as odd can be. But, as we saw against Florida State, he wasn’t alone. Overall, there weren’t many wow moments to the running game outside of Gillislee, but that’s also because Florida decided early on that he would be the go-to back as long as he remained healthy. Sure, Jeff Driskel has his moments and Burton had a few of those plays that made you believe in his aura once again, but the running game belonged to Gillislee. Although, we did see glimpses of the future and it made us smile.

For Gillislee though, we don’t know what that future is. He has one game remaining as a Florida Gator. It’s easy to imagine him getting plenty of carries against the Louisville Cardinals in the Sugar Bowl. He was the workhorse all season for an 11-1 Gators’ squad and both Will Muschamp and Brent Pease will want him to go out with a bang. Maybe not a Tebow-sized exit, but a good one all the same.

That game will bring an end to a career we hoped for more from, but got all we ever wanted during one final season. Years prior, we imagined a final season during which Gillislee would finally become the number one running back. Saying he didn’t disappoint would be an understatement. When the offensive line stepped up its play, Gillislee was great. When they were average, he was above it. When they were down, he was still the shining spot. Yes, he had better games than others and some that were nothing to praise, but we’re looking at the overall picture here.

We congratulate the Florida Gators on their successful 2012 season, but we single out Mike Gillislee. There are many reasons we’re looking forward to the Sugar Bowl, but watching Gillislee one final time is very high on the list.

Florida Gators Vs. Florida State Seminoles; The Rivalry Is Back Where It Belongs

I was thankful for a great many things yesterday–some sports-related; many not. Among those things I was thankful for was the return of the rivalry. I should clarify that before fans from both sides scream foul. When the Florida Gators face the Florida State Seminoles, the rivalry that comes along with it is always present. It wouldn’t matter if these teams had losing records. A rivalry of this kind is intense regardless of what the outcome means to the larger landscape of college football. That said, for many years it has taken a hit due to one or both of the programs underachieving. This season, that is not the case and, therefore, I’m thankful.

Ike Hilliard - Florida Gators

The Gators and ‘Noles enter Saturday’s game a combined 20-2. Not only do both teams have identical 10-1 records, they are both firmly (well, that could be argued) among the top 10 in the nation. Florida sits at No. 4 in the current BCS Standings thanks largely to the computer polls. FSU, on the other hand, holds the No. 10 spot due to those same polls. Let’s take a deeper dive, shall we?

The Florida Gators ranking line reads like this: No. 5 in the Harris Poll, No. 6 in the Coaches Poll, five computer rankings of No. 2 and one of No. 6. The computers have the Gators behind only the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, which pushes Florida to No. 4 overall. Then look at the Florida State line: No. 6 in the Harris Poll, No. 5 in the Coaches Poll and computer rankings ranging between No. 15 and NR (that’s right, the ‘Noles are unranked in one of the computer polls). That hurts FSU in a number of ways and is what pushes them down to No. 10. All but one computer ranks the Clemson Tigers–a team the Seminoles beat–ahead of Florida State and you have to go all the way down to No. 18 to find a team with a lower computer average. FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher may have been on to something when he spewed venom at the BCS.

But he only has half of an argument. Yes, the computers are screwing FSU to a point. As orange and blue as my vision is, I can admit that. However, there’s a little thing called strength of schedule that has to be taken into account. It’s not Fisher’s fault his ‘Noles play in the ACC where the level of competition isn’t always high. That’s not the fault of the FSU players either. He does have to live with it though. He also has to live with the fact that his team lost to a team they shouldn’t have–the NC State Wolfpack–that is now 6-5. Florida State would be either No. 1 or No. 2 right now if that hadn’t happened, but it did and Fisher has to live with the No. 10 ranking.

That doesn’t mean they won’t beat our mighty Gators tomorrow. The fact that FSU lost to NC State doesn’t necessarily give Florida an advantage either. Flip a coin and take your pick. What we’ll see if anyone’s guess, as it has been with most Gators’ games this season. There’s plenty to expect, but only one team will come out of this 11-1 and the best guess is to say something surprising will happen.

On both sides, we have elite defenses. Defenses that have won games for their respective teams. Defenses that will probably rule this matchup. Then we have the offenses and a whole lot of looking away from the television. I fondly remember the days when this game was always of national importance and with that came excitement over the offenses. The Florida offense would get the ball and you would move to the edge of your seat. Today, there are times when you’d rather go to the bathroom than see another three-and-out. On paper, Florida State holds the advantage in terms of offensive production. The problem with that is that you can throw away everything on paper from this entire college football season. Do I really need to prove that to you? Okay, here goes.

First of all, the Gators are 10-1. There’s joy in that record, but also genuine shock. The nation’s top team–the Alabama Crimson Tide–lost to one of the SEC’s newcomers in a game that didn’t feel as close as the score. Notre Dame is 11-0 and No. 1 only one season after I watched the USF Bulls beat them in South Bend. Florida State is 10-1 and NOT in the top five. Boise State has two losses and for once no one is talking about the Broncos. Only one week ago, we were discussing a National Championship featuring Oregon and Kansas State (?!?). And of the top 23 teams in the BCS Standings, only two have more than two losses this late in the season. Basically that means whatever the outcome on Saturday, it wouldn’t be surprising.

I hope for a Gators win, but I’m nervous. I’ve watched a determined team put together an impressive record with several notable victories and a lone loss to the nation’s No. 3 team. I’ve also watched an offense that looked to be improved early in the season, only to become something of a train wreck over the last month. I don’t know what to make of tomorrow because I don’t know what to make of the offense Brent Pease is attempting to get off the ground. Jeff Driskel will play, but I can’t be sure if that gives Florida a better chance than if Jacoby Brissett was taking snaps. The Gators have a primary running back and have run him ragged toward what will be the first 1,000-yard season since 2004, but he can’t do it alone. And, as always, there’s the offense line that we’re never really sure about. Put it all together and all I can manage is a shrug.

On Saturday, that shrug could turn into a raucous cheer or absolute anger. Time will tell on that end. The rivalry feels right again though and I am excited. Nervous, but excited. These teams should be playing for more than mid-tier bowl games. The rivalry means more to fans on both sides than that. Saturday will give us another chapter and another reason to hate each other. It’s part of what makes being a Florida fan or an FSU fan great. Both have the same philosophy for the game (even if we only promote it for one): just win.

Florida Gators Vs. Jacksonville State Gamecocks; 10th Win Is On The Horizon

There are milestones each team sets for the season. Steve Spurrier made sure the Florida Gators’ goal was to get to Atlanta and the SEC Championship Game. That was goal number one. Following that came the goal of playing for a National Championship. Spurrier’s Gators teams made good on that first goal numerous times, so did Urban Meyer’s squads. In year two, Will Muschamp’s Gators won’t make it to Atlanta, but at 9-1 (7-1 SEC) this season has been a step in the right direction and Florida now sits one victory away from another goal.

Jacoby Brissett - Florida Gators

I don’t run the Florida Gators’ football program (I think I’ve mentioned that before), but I have a goal of my own. It’s not a lone goal independent of the other two because it lends to their accomplishment. That goal is to get to 10 wins. A conveniently neat number, 10 wins makes a season stand out. It gives you a measure of success. If you can win 10 out of 12, 13 or 14 games, you’re doing something right. If you can get to those 10 without the help of a conference championship or a bowl game, even better. At 9-1, the Gators have a chance to reach that milestone in only game number 11.

That wasn’t expected at the beginning of the season. 10 wins was a possibility, but not necessarily by game 11. Many–myself included–thought a 9-3 regular season was in the cards with a chance of one win worse at 8-4. 10 wins could have come, but the Gators would have needed the added advantage of a second-tier bowl against a middle-of-the-road Big Ten opponent. Then the season began to unfold and that goal came to light quicker than we could have imagined. The Gators were 7-0 before we knew it and were in the SEC Championship Game hunt right up until last week. At 9-1, this team has had a phenomenal season, even if at times you really had to wonder how that record could possibly be what it was.

On Saturday, the Gators face their first non-FBS opponent of the season–the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. Florida has already accomplished a lot this season in terms of their record, and looks to accomplish more on Saturday. The Gators have a chance to go 7-0 at home for only the third time in school history. They are only the 14th Florida squad to go 9-1 in their first 10 games and can become only the 7th to go 10-1 in their first 11. There’s some prestigious company among those other six seasons: four of those Gators’ teams played for a national title (three won) and another finished the season 13-1. And the Gators have done that this season while facing the nation’s toughest schedule.

Jacksonville State is not the Gators’ toughest opponent of the season, but Louisiana-Lafayette wasn’t supposed to be either. We all saw what happened last week and I’m fairly certain not a single one of us could handle something like that again. At this point in the season, we want Brent Pease’s 50 points more than he might. In order to do so though, the Gators’ offense will be in the hands of the backup quarterback. Jeff Driskel is out; Jacoby Brissett is in. The (necessary-due-to-injury) change is intriguing and there isn’t a single fan that isn’t somewhat curious about Brissett’s ability. Do the Gators open up the offense and go for broke? Or do they play it safe and give us another win typical of all the rest we’ve seen in 2012?

Saturday marks another test. I’d like to say that test doesn’t involve getting the win because that’s guaranteed, but…well…that doesn’t seem like the right thing to say this season. The real test is how the offense performs. Perhaps most important is how the offensive line performs. The line looked much better early in the season, but has regressed the last few weeks. There are times (too many times) where linemen are turning around to watch Driskel get sacked or running backs get tackled behind the line of scrimmage. A very good defensive team takes on the Gators in only one week’s time and all of that has to stop. The key to the offense starts with the line. As green as you may want to believe Driskel (or Brissett) is, no quarterback can work miracles without time. The challenge is on the line. Get that 10th win and get the offense going.

I’ll enjoy my Saturday; I always do. I want to enjoy it more though. I want last week’s maniacal laugh to turn into a joyous one. First though, I want win number 10. Go Gators. Just win.

Georgia Bulldogs 17 – Florida Gators 9; Jordan Reed, Hold Your Head Up

Jordan Reed came to the Florida Gators in 2009 out of New London, CT. He was recruited as a quarterback and was considered one of the better dual-threat QBs in the nation. There weren’t many out there that expected him to stay at the position, but he would…at first.

Jordan Reed - Will Muschamp - Florida Gators

Reed redshirted in 2009–his first season on campus. In 2010–as the Gators would look nearly everywhere for a serviceable quarterback–he got the chance to play his high school position at the college level. Reed was efficient, but not overly so. Still, he put together a passer efficiency rating of just under 120 and had some memorable moments. Against Vanderbilt that season, Reed went 11-for-19 through the air for 130 yards and ran for another 84. He would pass for one touchdown and score another on the ground. There were flashes, but nothing spectacular. Ultimately, it was fairly obvious he would have more success at another position–tight end.

Having played some tight end in 2010, Reed went to the position full-time for the 2011 season. There were some growing pains as a TE, but Reed turned himself into a solid player with great promise as a pass catcher and a big target. Reed was putting together a good 2012 despite Florida struggling to find it’s way as a passing team. There were already whispers of where he might go in the NFL Draft in a year or two. On Saturday–while down 17-9 to the Georgia Bulldogs–the Gators went to their reliable (and now possibly even “star” tight end). As Reed sprinted toward the end-zone looking to get the Gators closer to a possible eighth victory, he fumbled. The air was let out of every orange and blue balloon at the same exact moment.

It could have happened to anyone, but it didn’t. It happened to Jordan Reed. It happened to a hard worker that switched positions and became one of the most reliable and productive players on the Florida roster. It happened to the player Jeff Driskel was looking for when the Gators were nearing the end-zone.

It’s not Reed’s fault the Gators lost. He obviously took it hard–anyone would–but the Gators turned over the ball five other times. Florida gave Georgia the ball in great position to score and while the defense held as tight as they could for most of the night, they couldn’t do it on every play. Reed plays one position and will be remember for one unfortunate play. He was chased from behind by one of college football’s best players–Jarvis Jones–and fumbled the ball into the end-zone where the Bulldogs recovered. There’s no blame to be put on Jordan Reed. Far from it. He should hold his head high, as hard as it will be to do that. Much more than that contributed to Florida’s loss. This has been a particularly odd season as it is and a six turnover game almost seems par for the course. Reed didn’t fumble that game away, something else entirely did.

Preview: Florida Gators Vs. Georgia Bulldogs; It Is The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party

It’s funny the things people choose to worry about. I could go down a variety of paths with this–especially during an election year with all of the crap being slung by all sides–but I’ll stick to the important one: college football.

Florida Gators Vs. Georgia Bulldogs 1985

What was once known as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, the Florida Gators annual contest against the Georgia Bulldogs is no longer named that. In 2006, the schools and the SEC asked that it no longer be referred to as a cocktail party. I can understand their reasoning, but it will always be met with a “lighten up” thought springing into my head. Again, there are a number of paths this discussion could go down as well, but let’s stay with college football. This weekend is the rivalry; the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party has returned.

Florida-Georgia has a mystique to it with few equals. If you spent your formative football years in the Steve Spurrier era, as I did, the rivalry with the Bulldogs wasn’t much of one at all. In fact, for 14 years from 1990 to 2003, the Gators were 13-1 against the Dawgs. Incidentally, that one loss came during my freshman year at the University of Florida. I’ve mentioned being a jinx of sorts before and there’s just one more example for you.

Since that time, Florida is 5-3 against Georgia and the rivalry’s fire has been reignited. But that’s still new to many of us who were too young to truly remember Georgia’s dominance through the 1970s or 1980s, and were definitely not around when Florida ruled the 1950s and early 1960s. Through it all, we learned though. We learned to hate our neighbors to the north as much as they looked down upon those to the south. It was a mutual hatred fueled by years of growing up knowing who your true rivals were regardless of how many times you had beaten them or lost to them recently.

Here we are in another season with another Cocktail Party on the schedule. In recent seasons, it hasn’t seemed as important to the landscape of college football. Florida fans never let go of the power of the game–neither did Georgia fans–but when one team is having an off season, it doesn’t jump out to you as much as it can. This, though, is one of those seasons where the entire nation will be watching.

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Florida Gators 44 – South Carolina Gamecocks 11; Gators Take Control Of SEC East In Big Victory

With a 44-11 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks, the Florida Gators took control of the SEC East. At 7-0 (6-0 SEC), the Gators have two more conference games to get through before a possible trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. It seemed a year away before the 2012 season began, but after seven games, it’s now a very real possibility.

Florida Gators Fans

Watching the first half, you felt that the Gators had control of the game despite a (beyond) subpar offensive performance. It was an odd feeling, but when the Gators entered the locker room leading 21-6, there was a definite aura of victory. While Florida wasn’t moving the ball particularly well, they were winning by two scores and the defense was playing up to its high expectations. If you told me a team with 29 total yards of offense could lead a football game by 15 after 30 minutes of play, I would have told you that you were out of your mind. But you would have been right and that’s all that matters.

The second half was more kind to the Gators offense. Although, after 60 minutes, Florida was still outgained. The Gators scored an unfathomable 44 points on 181 total yards. Turnovers and special teams will do that for you though. And it doesn’t hurt to have a ridiculously unbelievable statline like this one…

Jeff Driskel – 11/16, 93 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions

Amazed? Well, here were the numbers at the half…

Jeff Driskel – 5/7, 15 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions

The Gators have passed for less than 100 yards in three-straight games for the first time since before Steve Spurrier roamed the home team’s sidelines. They have also won all three of those games and two against top-10 teams. I’ll say that again to be sure you’ve heard me. The Gators have won three-straight games–two against top-10 teams–while passing for less than 100 yards in each.

In this one, they didn’t run it particular well either. That’s saying something for South Carolina’s defense and not necessarily a lack of production from Florida. The Gators had trouble blocking the Gamecocks front four to no surprise to anyone. It’s a talented South Carolina defense, but Florida managed to do enough to win. I would say just enough by looking at the stats, but then I glance at the final score. A 33-point win classifies as much more than “just enough.”

There you have it Gators fans. Another win–the seventh off the season. During Will Muschamp’s first season as head coach, the Gators won a total of seven games and needed the bowl game to hit that mark. This time around, it took seven games to get to seven. If you’re out tonight celebrating the victory, go ahead and order yourself a seven and seven. You deserve it. We all do. But the biggest congrats goes to the Florida Gators; our Florida Gators. 7-0 is so sweet and it’s always great to be a Florida Gator.

Florida Gators 31 – Vanderbilt Commodores 17; Gators Avoid Trap In A Very Vandy-Like Game

The Florida Gators escaped the trap, defeating the Vanderbilt Commodores 31-17. It was an extremely Vandy-like game in that you never really felt like Florida would lose, but it was an uncomfortably close experience. That’s what happens when the Gators face the Commodores more often than not. There are your blowouts, sure, but there are also a lot of those times that you’d rather be hitting your head against the wall. The score at times made this one of those times, but it’s a win and the last thing we’re doing is worrying about style points these days. We have 2010 and 2011 to remind us that all that matters is winning.

Will Muschamp - Florida Gators

With the win, the Florida Gators moved to 6-0 (5-0 SEC). Those six wins make the Gators bowl eligible. That’s not something we Florida fans celebrate necessarily, but it’s always good to check something off of the list. Last season, bowl eligibility came much later in the season and at times we weren’t even sure we wanted to see the Gators in a bowl. This time around, it came as quick as it possibly could and we’re overly excited for the second half of the season. Not every team has six wins yet and not every team is undefeated. The Gators are one of the few and that’s something to celebrate for now.

The 5-0 SEC record is also something to smile about. In other seasons, 6-0 wouldn’t have meant five SEC wins. That change in the schedule to welcome Texas A&M to their new home gave the Gators that extra conference win. With six games to go, Florida only has three SEC games remaining. They will be battles for sure, but it’s nice heading into them with an unblemished record. Half of the regular season down, half to go. Hard to believe the season is going by that fast, but it’s good to get out of it unscathed.

We still have to teach Jeff Driskel that it’s okay to throw the ball away, or better yet, he has to learn it. The quarterback still has improvements to make as a passer. But, well, what do you say? He can run and he can win. A performance like that is going to bring up comparisons. That much is inevitable. All I know is that Driskel is too big to be that fast, but I watched him outrace a defense for his third touchdown of the evening. He didn’t beat Vandy with his arm, but he sure did with his feet.

On the other side of the ball, the defense finally gave up points in the fourth quarter. It was bound to happen – those streaks never last forever – but it was a fun ride. Fortunately for the Gators’ defense, the offense didn’t stop scoring when the game entered the final frame. When it needed to be, the defense was good enough. It wasn’t their best performance of the season, but it wasn’t a horrible one either. As with every other aspect of the game, there will be a lot to practice this week.

And then there were special teams. I’ll take the easy way out and simply say that they were special. From fakes, to returns, to blocked kicks. Game changers galore. Whatever the Gators can do to keep that up, do it. Please. More and more. We all thank you in advance.

Another week, another victory. It’s a streak I suppose, but it’s hard to get to caught up in that when it comes to college football. Each week feels like a new season and one wrong step can ruin it all. That didn’t happen this Saturday, so it’s immediately time to move on to the next. One more in the win column and now intently watching the next opponent.

Monday Morning Driskel: Florida Gators Thoughts After Win Over The LSU Tigers

Another win, another new Florida Gators feature at The Bull Gator. The name is inspired by our quarterback Jeff Driskel and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback, which discusses a plethora of topics concerning the week’s NFL games. We hope to do something similar, but on a minor, more pertinent-to-us level. Don’t worry, it won’t be nearly as long.

And another happy week in Gatorland.

Apologies for the fact that its Tuesday. Pink eye is the culprit.

If I were to tell you that six weeks into the season, Florida would be sitting undefeated at 5-0, AND Florida State would already have one loss despite beating Clemson, I doubt you would believe me.

But that’s just where we are. It’s almost funny. The Florida Gators, whose fans thought the Gators were facing a sure-loss against LSU and could be sporting a losing-record right now, is undefeated. The Florida State Seminoles, whose fans seriously thought of the year as “Championship or bust,” has suffered another tremendous setback in its loss to North Carolina State.

Oh, and as a pleasant bonus on the side, Georgia was blown out by a South Carolina team that looks increasingly-ferocious every week. Of course we have to play the Gamecocks, but we’ll enjoy the Georgia loss for the moment.

Back to our game. Many may have thought the game was ugly–and it would have been three years ago in the Urban Meyer-era–but Florida’s win Saturday over the then No. 4 LSU Tigers was a thing of beauty. It was a testament to the new era, one of down-hill running and stifling defense that Will Muschamp is bringing about as the new style of Gators Football.

What Happened

The defense gave us the chance to win the game: Enough credit cannot be given to the defense this week, as they truly and completely man-handled an LSU offense that is usually not one to laugh at. The defense made the Tigers’ offense look so bad that it looked like what the opening game’s Bowling Green’s offense should have looked like. The Tigers only had 200 yards of total offense, and the Gators made one of the most-feared running backs, Spencer Ware, look pedestrian, as they held him to only 21 yards. Florida wouldn’t have had a chance to win this game without the defense performing the way it did.

Mike Gillislee is a work-horse running back: Gillislee, who carried a career-high 34 times and added 146 yards, showed us something that perhaps we didn’t know before: Gillislee can carry the Florida offense by himself. And that’s just what he did. He scored the only two touchdowns of the game for either team.

Florida proved that it is a much better team than we thought: I doubt most of us thought Florida would be this successful to this point in the season. It’s actually a very refreshing surprise. It’s almost like Auburn and the magic of Cam Newton.

The game was taken from LSU: After trailing 6-0 at halftime, the Gators continued their trend of comebacks that are looking more and more impressive every week.

The receivers didn’t do much: But they didn’t need to. Jordan Reed led the Gators with 30 yards, which pretty much sums up that the Gators didn’t do much passing on Saturday. Luckily, they didn’t need to. The running attack led the charge.

The offensive line continued to show that it’s much better than last year: The O-line gave up a lot of sacks in the first half, but they recovered nicely. The line had their way with an injury-depleted Tigers’ line in the second half, and were responsible for Florida’s success on the ground. Also new was the new formation, “God’s play”.

Jeff Driskel’s participation: Driskel didn’t do much to win the game, but he did have a first down-earning play to allow the Gators to run out a good portion of the clock. Driskel was responsible for a few of his sacks in the first half and showed some qualities of a first-year starter, but he didn’t lose the game for the Gators. And that is something that I think we can live with, knowing that Driskel is continuing to improve.

Offensive Most Valuable Player

Running back Mike Gillislee: Gillislee couldn’t have been much better. He dominated the game and none of his carries resulted in a loss.

Defensive Most Valuable Player

Safety Matt Elam: Elam showed proved his case as the best safety in the NCAA. He led the Gators with seven tackles and looked like the strongest player on the field, despite the fact that he is an undersized safety.

Special Teams Most Valuable Player:

Punter Kyle Christy: Christy’s booming punts were the main reason the Gators won the field-position battle.

Play Of The Day

Matt Elam tackles anything in sight: Louichez Purifoy was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Preview: Florida Gators Vs. LSU Tigers; The Cross-Divisional Rivalry Hath Cometh

On Saturday, the Florida Gators play host to the cross-divisional rival LSU Tigers. Only three schools have won BCS National Championships and these are two of them.1 But that’s not the story line for tomorrow. No, the story line is a match-up of top-10 teams and the arrival of October. This month doesn’t present much of a scare for that team from Louisiana, but for the Gators, it’s frightening.

Florida Gators - LSU Tigers

Frightening because of last season and what October brought to the Gators. 0-4 one year ago put Florida at 4-4 on the season and an even worse 2-4 in the SEC. But this time around it feels different. I’m generally positive (to a fault) heading into most games, but it seems many more others are as well. October will once again be a battle, but a battle the Gators are ready for, not one we fear.

It starts with LSU this October. The Gators have a quarterback; one that is still learning and growing, but a quarterback all the same. One year ago, no one really knew what Florida had at the position. John Brantley had been knocked out of action against Alabama. For a few moments at least, it felt like the Gators were in the game. When Brantley went down, Jeff Driskel came in and only attempted six passes. Fast forward one week and it was Jacoby Brissett under center against LSU. The game was effectively out of reach by the half.

But 2012 should be different (even if the results could be the same). The Gators have more confidence on offense and Brent Pease has parts he has yet to unveil. The Tigers on the other hand appear to have taken a step back in recent weeks. This is a game that has an NFL feel to it. The likelihood of a college-style shootout seems rare. Instead, clock control, smart defensive play, and a steady running attack may win it. And realistically, that could be either side.

LSU is ranked higher, but it doesn’t feel like it did one season ago. There wasn’t much hope in the land of the Gators in 2011. While we all know hope can be a dangerous thing, it appears to be back. We’re roughly five hours until kickoff, giving us plenty of time for that hope to grow. There is a win out there that both teams need for different reasons, but for the Gators, that reason could be a return to prominence.

1First, yay for footnotes! Second, the other team is the Alabama Crimson Tide, but you knew that because you’re a Southeastern Conference fan and, well, SEC, SEC, SEC!

Monday Morning Driskel: Florida Gators Thoughts After Win Over The Kentucky Wildcats

Another win, another new Florida Gators feature at The Bull Gator. The name is inspired by our quarterback Jeff Driskel and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback, which discusses a plethora of topics concerning the week’s NFL games. We hope to do something similar, but on a minor, more pertinent-to-us level. Don’t worry, it won’t be nearly as long.

And another happy week in Gatorland.

This week, the Florida Gators continued their football domination of the Kentucky Wildcats, shutting them out. Will Muschamp’s squad rose to No. 11/12 in the AP and Coaches Polls. The big story was the extension of the Gators’ 26-and-counting win streak over the Wildcats, a probable reason for the Kentucky fans to continue to revert their focus back to the basketball season, which is quite a while from now.

What Happened

Jeff Driskel continued his balling: Sir Driskel could eventually be one of the best Gators to play at Florida by the time he graduates. As a true sophomore, JD looks better in Brent Pease’s system than Brantley looked in Charlie Weis’. Part of that has to be because of Driskel’s mobility. His ability to avoid the pass-rush and make plays deep down the field thus far has been Roethlisberger-esque, and right now, he is leading our football team.

The defense was, for the most part, dominant: Led by a surprise Jaylen Watkins pick six, the Gators’ defense forced three turnovers, all interceptions. All could pretty much be attributed to Morgan Newton’s erratic inaccuracy, which was really terrible, but we’ll still claim those turnovers. On a similar note, there were a lot of open Wildcats that Newton completely missed, which needs to be worked on. Other than that and some success for Kentucky in the run game, Florida’s defense did indeed look pretty dominant.

Kentucky as, same-old Kentucky: There’s a reason none of the players on Kentucky have been alive since the last Wildcat win over the Gators. Kentucky is back this year with their usual football mediocrity, and their cause wasn’t helped much by starting quarterback Maxwell Smith’s unavailability.

The game was secured early: The Gators led 24-0 at the half, and Jeff Driskel and other key starters started their rests in the fourth quarter. Mike Gillislee got his rest early, not playing after the first series in the second half.

Receivers are getting open: This can be largely attributed to Driskel’s ability to extend the play and give the receivers more time to get open, but there’s no doubt that this team is better than last year’s in the receiving corps. Sure, no player is averaging 100 yards-per-game, but a good number of the Florida receivers are chipping in with a few catches in each game. With 10 players targeted in Saturday’s game, speedster Andre Debose, who was largely nonexistent in all areas of the game, was the notable exception.

The defense is great in the fourth quarter: I put this up last week, and nothing changed this week, so I figured I’d put this up again.

More raving for Jeff Driskel: Driskel threw his first interception of the year on a terrible throw up into double-coverage in the end-zone, but give him loads of credit. He followed up his mistake with another game that showed his improvement. Another game note: his accuracy is amazing.

Ouch Video Of The Day

• Tight end Jordan Reed sandwiched: I really don’t know how Reed got up after this play, let alone held onto the ball. He came out of the play with a shoulder injury, but he appears to be fine.

This is also the play of the game, simply because I can’t find video of Jaylen Watkins’ interception and touchdown return.